Fabio Cannavaro (File Photo/China News Service)
Fabio Cannavaro was replaced by former Portugal international Paulo Sousa as head coach of Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian on Monday, with the Italian legend reportedly poised to rejoin CSL champion Guangzhou Evergrande.
Quanjian made the announcement just two days after Cannavaro steered the team to a 2-1 victory at Evergrande to seal a third-place CSL finish and earn a berth in the AFC Champions League.
Cannavaro, named world Player of the Year after leading Italy to the 2006 World Cup, had a short, underwhelming stint as Evergrande coach in 2015, winning 13 and drawing nine of his 23 games in charge.
He enjoyed instant success at Tianjin, winning the second-tier league title and promotion to the CSL.
This season's third-place finish apparently convinced Evergrande the 44-year-old is the right man for the job after Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari last week ended his three-year tenure at the Guangdong club, which has dominated the Chinese game in recent years.
Sousa, a former defensive midfielder who plied his trade with the likes of Benfica, Inter Milan and Juventus and won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund in 1997, has more than a decade of coaching experience, most recently with Serie A side Fiorentina, which he left in June this year.
"We fully hope that Paulo Sousa can lead Tianjin to new heights in the new season and bring joy to the fans," said a club statement.
Tianjin did not elaborate on the reasons for Cannavaro's departure, but it appears to be amicable.
"Based on the application of Fabio Cannavaro and friendly mutual negotiations, Tianjin Quanjian Football Club decided to approve his resignation," said the statement.
Rumors were rife that Cannavaro's return to Evergrande was imminent, but he was coy when asked about it ahead of Tianjin's clash with Evergrande on Saturday.
"Recently there have been a lot of rumors," Cannavaro said.
"But now is not the right time to consider this situation."